Wednesday’s Book Review: “Faith, Science, and Understanding”

download (2)Faith, Science, and Understanding. By John Polkinghorne. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000.

This book is a collection of lectures and essays pieced together to explore the themes exemplified in the title. At sum, each essay considers the relationship between faith and science and suggests that they can be reconciled. John Polkinghorne, an Anglican priest and a trained physicist, wrestles with reconciliation of these different world views. While he does so effectively in many instances, his results are not always satisfactory from my perspective.

I found his essay on science and theology in the university and the piece dealing with cosmology to be the most insightful. I thought his chapter on “Design in Biology” less helpful. Polkinghorne accepts the argument of Michael Behe’s “irreducible complexity” theory as an acceptable explanation of design in living organisms. He does not outright deny evolutionary theory, but his move toward the Discovery Institute’s arguments push him in that direction.

Can one be a person of both religion and science? Can one be a rational, modern human being with a commitment to empirical scientific knowledge and still accept the concept of divine revelation? Polkinghorne certainly believes so. This is as strong statement of how he walks this tightrope between science and religion.

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